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Duisenberg Fires off Final Shots at Budget Offenders

In one of his final appearances before the European Parliament as head of the European Central Bank (ECB) before he hands over the role to Bank of France governor Jean-Claude Trichet, Wim Duisenberg told the assembled ministers Thursday that continued flouting of EU rules on budget deficits would damage growth prospects in the euro zone. Duisenberg said that some countries had failed to show "sufficient determination" in meeting budget rules. Both Germany and France are on their way to breaching the budget deficit limit of 3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) for the third year in a row. But a report on Wednesday suggested that a loophole found in the EU rules may allow the countries to escape compulsory fines. Without naming either country, Duisenberg warned of trouble ahead. "In order to strengthen confidence in the euro area, it is fundamental... to abide in all respects by the agreed rules of the game," he said.